Public interest groups write the FCC that zero rating is threat to net neutrality!?#…
Should the FCC have Zero Tolerance for Zero Rating? According to some public interest activists – The net neutrality laws were meant to create an even playing field. Allowing one provider to have a marketplace advantage over another is precisely what the laws were created to avoid. The problem of zero rating from this perspective, it is the content provider that gets to have the traffic to their content Zero Rated and excluded from Data Caps. Why does one content provider get this privilege and the other not? Does Zero Rating put the small content providers at a disadvantage?
More than a year after the FCC passed its Open Internet rules, net neutrality implementation is still confusing. Public advocacy groups wrote a letter to the FCC on Monday saying that very popular zero rating programs are threatening the original principle that all network traffic must be treated equally.
“Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are using new zero rating plans to undermine the spirit and the text of the rules,” said the letter
Various implementations of Zero Rating;
- T-Mobile introduced Binge On and Zero Rate Netflix and YouTube
- AT&T, offers a “sponsored data plan” (another implementation of Zero Rating) that allows wireless customers to access certain content that is Zero Rated for them.
- Comcast has Zero Rated Stream TV – a video streaming service that is available only in limited areas.
T-Mobile defends Binge On by saying it’s something that customers control easily and turn on or off if they prefer.
Comcast has said Stream TV goes over its own networks and not the broader Internet.
The problem of Zero Rating from the public interest groups perspective is that the operators’ decision on who to Zero Rate determines the content providers’ success. Operators control the content people choose to watch indirectly. By excluding certain services from data caps, open internet advocates say these companies are engaging in a kind of reverse discrimination by favoring some services over others, thereby creating an economic incentive for customers to avoid services that remain subject to the caps.
Which site are customers more likely to visit? — the one that’s free or the one that costs money or uses up your data cap?” So while it might be cool that T-Mobile customers’ Netflix binge watching doesn’t count against their data caps, Binge On may be preventing the next would-be Netflix out there from even getting started.
And in the letter to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, the public advocacy groups also say “these harms tend to fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, who tend to rely on mobile networks as their primary or exclusive means of access to the Internet.” The groups, are urging the FCC to take a bolder stance against zero rating. The letter, was signed by the Center for Media Justice, the Open Technology Institute, Free Press, ColorofChange.org, Voices for Racial Justice and dozens of other groups. Its purpose is to increase the pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to address the very popular zero rating, which has become the latest battlefront in the decade-long war between policymakers, industry giants, and consumer advocates over how best to ensure internet openness.
“Without action from the FCC, zero rating plans will continue to expand, and ISPs will continue to seek out ways to monetize capped broadband service at the expense of an open Internet and the communities that rely on it,” the letter says.
Well, we know what happened in India…(here) Facebook were pushing Zero Rating for their Free Basics initiative, but the TRAI (India’s own FCC) decided No Zero rating for Facebook Free Basics or anyone else for that matter… But they were only looking to zer rate their own application and specific services. T-Mobile has said Binge On is available for all and any that meet the technical requirements (here).